Susan Mowbray, senior economist and partner at MNP, presents the State of the Island economic report on Wednesday night at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Susan Mowbray, senior economist and partner at MNP, presents the State of the Island economic report on Wednesday night at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Diversifying economy Vancouver Island’s strength

Senior economist delivers State of the Island report saying economy will slow, not stall

No economy is recession-proof, but Vancouver Island is diversifying and becoming better-equipped to be able to stave off any slowdowns, says a senior economist.

The annual State of the Island economic report was released Wednesday at the Vancouver Island Economic Summit in Nanaimo. Susan Mowbray, partner at MNP, presented the report to delegates at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and her advice was not to panic.

“Growth is expected to slow, there’s no question about that, but there’s no indication it’s going to stall yet,” she said. “And that is because of that diversification.”

Mowbray said because Vancouver Island has “a small, open economy” that isn’t independent, outside factors do have an effect. The pace of growth or lack of growth on the Island might depend on a range of influences, she suggested, such as global tensions and trade uncertainties, large-scale infrastructure projects elsewhere in B.C., and contraction of the forest industry.

The economic report notes that on Vancouver Island, population and employment growth contributed to overall growth, “albeit at a more moderate pace than in 2017.” Mowbray said growth in 2019 is going to be lower than 2018, and 2020 will be lower still, some of the reasons being slowdowns in housing and construction “and just a general malaise in the economy” brought on by global factors.

Vancouver Island’s unemployment rate is not only the lowest in B.C., but the lowest in Canada, Mowbray said, and the Island and the Lower Mainland are experiencing “very acute” effects of a tight labour market.

“It’s made it really difficult for employers to be attracting and retaining the workers that they need,” she said.

RELATED: B.C. Premier talks pipeline, Western separatism at economic summit

The report found that the Island’s tourism industry continued to perform well in 2018, especially considering a “relatively unfavourable [currency] exchange rate,” Mowbray said.

Conversely, the forestry industry had a “difficult year” in 2018, the report showed, and challenges have continued or worsened in 2019. Mowbray pointed to a lack of available trees, the absence of a softwood agreement, Teal-Jones Group ceasing harvest activity and the Western Forest Products labour dispute as some of the long- and short-term factors. A drop in production combined with mill closures and curtailments have resulted in a decline in shipments of forest-related products.

“There’s still going to be a forest industry on Vancouver Island – it’s just going to be a lot smaller,” Mowbray said. “Now, if I’d said that 13 years ago at the first summit, it would have been cause for significant concern, and don’t get me wrong, it’s still certainly a cause for concern.”

However, she noted that although there are more than 2,000 fewer forest-industry jobs on the Island since 2015, that same time period has seen the creation of more than 40,000 overall jobs. Film and TV, technology, craft brewing and cannabis, for example, aren’t large industries on the Island, relatively, said Mowbray, but “collectively they make a big difference and they do matter.”

It’s part of a shift toward a Vancouver Island economy that’s less dependent on any one industry, she said.

“By diversifying, Vancouver Island’s economy is becoming less dependent on cyclical swings in individual markets – such as what’s happening with forestry – and more resilient,” Mowbray said. “I’m not going to say recession-proof because no economy’s recession-proof, but more able to weather the storms.”

The 2019 State of the Island economic report was prepared by MNP for the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance. Pete van Dongen, MNP’s marketing manager for the Island, said the report has become a model for other regions to follow. He talked about how Vancouver Island has changed and grown since the first economic summit in 2007.

“I can’t help but think how our discussions today and tomorrow and the relationships that we build and the actions that follow from this event will change the course of our businesses, our communities and our Island as we look years into the future,” he said.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read